Linda Perry doesn’t give a fuck. Actually, she does. She gives a fuck about a lot of things, but what other people think isn’t one of them. An artistic powerhouse and Renaissance woman, Perry exploded onto the scene 25 years ago as the front woman for 4 Non Blondes. Their iconic “What’s Up?” would be the first of many hits Perry would score. As a songwriter and producer, she has worked with Christina Aguilera, P!nk, Gwen Stefani, Alicia Keys, Robbie Williams, James Blunt, Britney Spears, and just about every other contemporary pop artist worth listening to. So, yeah, Linda Perry gives a fuck. But, what she cares about is music, the people who make music, and the people who listen to music. That caring was one of the main drivers that propelled her into a new reality TV show on VH1, Make or Break: The Linda Perry Project.
She saw, in the world, a generation of artists coming up who don’t get it. They think being an artist means winning a show rather than writing a song. “They don’t really know that music comes from life experiences — that you pick up a guitar and you find your way through it; you discover who you are; you find your emotions through it; you find your weaknesses through it, your strength; you find your voice and you start creating the person that you want to be. That, to me, is not being voiced,” Perry explained.
So, she’s voicing it on Make or Break and, as is always the case with Perry, what says what she means and she means what she says. Along the way, Perry suffers no fools — not a single one. “What you’re seeing is just how I am in the studio always,” she said. “I’m talking to a group of people who don’t know that there are other ways besides curtains rising and judges judging and singing other people’s songs. … What I see and hear is people basically singing exactly like the demo of the singer that the producer put on the track. They’re not putting their twist on it. Their twist is their outfit. It’s not their heart and passion on the line.”
Unlike those various other talent competition shows, Make or Break is about artist development, it’s about finding a diamond in the rough and shining it up. But, these days, people aren’t used to that approach. When Perry kicked the obviously talented Noah off the show, she heard a lot of grousing and grumbling about it. Guess what? She didn’t give a fuck. “That’s the whole point,” she emphasized. “I’m going to get rid of what you’re used to and I’m going to bring in something better — something you should listen to, something you should aspire to. I’m going to raise the fucking bar in this show.” As a producer, Perry’s role is to bring out the best in her artists, to help them define and achieve their vision. It’s a process, and one that a lot of people don’t have the patience or understanding to appreciate. “Everybody is just looking for the fast track. And it doesn’t work that way,” she said. “And, if it does, it’s only temporary. That’s it. It’s a band-aid. It’s going to fall off.”
In artists, Perry knows what she is looking for: “You have to have a dream. You have to have drive. You have to have heart, passion. And you have to have talent. But, honestly, talent is just a small part of it. All the other stuff is actually far more important.” One of the bands on Make or Break is a trio of lesbians called Hunter Valentine that has been part of the LGBT scene, and some other notable tours, for the past 10 years. “I don’t like their name. I don’t even like their music, to be honest. But I like them. And they have so much heart because what has gotten them from here to there has been their drive, not their music. There’s no way,” Perry cautioned. “Going and playing the White Party at fucking Dinah Shore Weekend with a bunch of drunk lesbians rushing the stage is not success. That doesn’t mean you’re great. That just means those lesbians are drunk and you guys are cute, you’re dykes, and there’s nothing else out there. … But, to me, there’s something bigger brewing in them.”
Whatever and wherever that “something bigger” is, Perry will find it. That’s what she does. That’s who she is — an impervious and indomitable force to be reckoned with. Even an old boys’ club industry known for its sexism has failed to hold her back. Why? How? “Maybe it’s because I don’t give a fuck. Maybe too many people focus on who they are and what people perceive of them. And maybe I just don’t care,” Perry mused. “So maybe people are holding me back in some way — or have tried — and I just don’t see it because I’m blinded to that kind of negativity. … I just don’t care because that kind of way doesn’t deserve any kind of energy given to it. And I think some of the problem has always been that people give way too much energy and power to ignorance. That’s why it sustains.”
Being one of the very few female producer/engineers in a heavily male-dominated world just is what it is to Perry. She’s just doing what she does, unconcerned with what other women are — or aren’t — doing with their lives: “All I know is that there’s a bunch of fucking women running around half-naked singing a bunch of crap. I don’t know what the women of the world are up to and what they’re thinking, but I wish they’d get their fucking heads out of their fucking assholes and start getting back to when women were strong and actually saying something. That would be a nice thing to see.”
But that’s not a fight Perry’s interested in fighting. She picks her battles because she understands what’s at stake in the winning and the losing. When it comes to marriage equality, even though she wedded Sara Gilbert earlier this year, Perry wants the battle lines to be drawn more clearly: “What, exactly, are we fighting for? To have a piece of paper that says we’re married just like all the other straighties out there that end up in divorces… that beat their wives, that murder their husbands, that abandon their children? Is that what we’re fighting for? Or are we fighting for something greater? Do we want to be the average American straight Christian? No. I don’t. I love being different.”
She continued, “Now, we’re constantly fighting for many things. We’re fighting to keep kids in school. We’re fighting to feed starving children. We’re fighting to stop rape. We’re fighting for HIV. We’re fighting to keep this planet alive. So which one is greater — the fight to get married or the fight to be alive and stay alive on this planet? I’m not saying anything negative. I’m just saying think about the fight.”
This article originally appeared in Curve.